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Chiefs penalties hand Highlanders late victory

The three-game winning run is over for the Chiefs after two late penalties gave the Highlanders an unlikely victory in Hamilton.

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It was a match where two penalty tries were awarded – to the losing side.

The Chiefs made nine handling errors and missed two penalty attempts in the first half, by far their scrappiest opening to a match this season.

James Lowe broke through the Highlanders defense after a great set play execution, but as the Highlanders defense closed in around him, the Tasman native spilled the ball when it was likely he would have powered over the line in the tackle.

Needless penalties gave the Highlanders many opportunities for points despite not being in Chiefs territory for much of the first half.

Lima Sopoaga kicked nine points from penalties.

The Chiefs had another opportunity to score with numbers on the left and James Lowe free, but Augustine Pulu chose to not pass the ball, took the ball into contact and lost possession moments later.

Another Chiefs handling error deep in Highlanders territory left a gap for Ben Smith to run through, leading to a brilliant try by Patrick Osborne in the corner after the winger stepped past several Chiefs defenders to hand the Highlanders a good lead.

On the halftime buzzer, Lima Sogoaga kicked a penalty to send the Highlanders into the sheds leading 14 – 3.

The Highlanders looked like a different side in the second stanza.

All the discipline from the Highlanders went out the window completely after halftime.

It all started with the sinbinning of Highlanders lock Joe Wheeler.

Penalties mounted at a quick rate before referee Nick Briant had seen enough and awarded the Chiefs a penalty try.

In a shock turn of events, the Chiefs were awarded another penalty try and suddenly snuck into the lead 17 – 14.

Aaron Cruden kicked three of his six attempts on goal during the match but missed a crucial kick from directly in front of the posts late in the game.

It was an easy opportunity on goal which would have seen the Chiefs go out to a six-point lead.

When Andrew Horrell tried to lengthen the margin but found the posts, the Highlanders suddenly came back to life, and the Chiefs imploded.

Two penalties goals to Marty Banks in the last four minutes saw the Highlanders snatch victory from the Chiefs on the fulltime buzzer.

The Highlanders snatched victory from the Chiefs 17 – 20 at Waikato Stadium.

The Chiefs were forced to make a late change prior to the game when in-form centre Charlie Ngatai went down with an injury.

Ngatai was replaced by Andrew Horrell, and Tim Nani Williams returned to cover the bench.

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